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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dissembling Evangelicalism in Sydney (Part 4 of 5)

This is the fourth instalment of an address given by Maurice Roberts on the topic of "The Guilt of Higher Criticism" given at the centenary of the Bible League in England in 1992. As you read, bring to mind the thinking you encounter when dealing with Sydney Episcopalians (Anglicans) on Genesis 1:

"Take, for instance, these words of Professor H. H. Rowley in 1951: 'Many of the conclusions that seemed most sure have been challenged, and there is now a greater variety of views on many questions than has been known for a long time.' So much then for the much-vaunted claims that Criticism was giving us some 'assured results'.

We can unhesitatingly state that the Higher Critical movement made claims that were bogus and which turned out in the course of events to be unsubstantial and worthless. All this has led the Christian church of that time and subsequently into great scepticism and ignorance.

The Higher Critics were also not above using the tactics of the bully against those who disagreed with them. They could, of course, point on their side to a list of impressive scholarly names: T. K. Cheyne, S. R. Driver, A. S. Peake, A. B. Bruce, W. R. Smith, Marcus Dodds' and many others. So they tended to write off the opposition as unscholarly.

This was the case, for example, when Alfred Cave in 1888 attacked the Graf-Wellhausen theory. They simply dismissed him as an ignoramus! Unfortunately for them, they could not do this with a scholar of the stature of Professor B. B. Warfield of Princeton. So in his case they simply held a conspiracy of silence. They could not evidently answer Warfield's strictures on the Higher Critical theories and so they simply ignored him!

My point is to show that the Higher Criticism with all its high claim to objective scholarship was really guilty of a great deal of dishonesty and even deception. For all of this it is chargeable with guiltiness in bringing great harm upon the Christian church from that day to this.

As we have seen, the Higher Critics scoffed at the doctrine of the divine inspiration of Scripture. They resorted to caricature by terming it 'the dictation theory' or 'mechanical theory'. But this is not what the church of Christ has taught by its doctrine of inspiration. The style of Bible writers is distinct and personal to each man. The God who formed the personality of the writer and gave him the gifts, so influenced his activity that he wrote down words which were Scripture. The precise terms, words, phrases, expressions and syllables in the original languages were written just as God intended them to be written.

Then, too, the Higher Critics charge evangelicals with reasoning in a circle. They put it something like this: 'You evangelicals prove the Bible to be inerrant by quoting two texts from the Bible itself. But that shows that you are assuming from the start the thing you are attempting to prove.' And that,' they conclude, 'is circular reasoning.' The answer, of course, to this Higher Critical charge is that they themselves are guilty of the very same thing in reverse. They assume the validity of the critical method and so they come to their conclusion that the Bible is not inerrant because it does not conform to their own first assumptions.

The fact is that all reasoning is 'circular' in that sense, and it has to be. As Aristotle taught the world over two thousand years ago, syllogistic reasoning has a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion. Everything depends on what your first premises are. If you start with an infallible Bible you end with one; and if you start with a principle of human scepticism entitled 'Higher Criticism' then you end inevitably with an unreliable Bible.

The difference is that we, on our part, have the explicit words of Christ and of the apostles on our side and we have also the explicit testimony of the church's most trusted spokesmen throughout nineteen hundred years of her history. They, for their part, have little more than their own subjective theories as to how the Bible came into existence. The Higher Critical movement as a whole has been guilty of contradicting the explicit Word of God and should now be abandoned.

Interestingly enough, we have an academic witness to this very assertion. I refer to the recent conversion to Christ of a brilliant Bultmannian scholar named Eta Linnemann. Dr Linnemann was for years a scholar working with Rudolph Bultmann and other eminent New Testament scholars, as they are called. She was a member of the Society for New Testament Studies - a highly prestigious society - and was appointed as Professor of New Testament at Philipps University, Marburg in Germany. She was a woman who rose very high in the Critical circles of this present generation.

But Dr Linnemann later had a deep spiritual experience which led her to see that her 'Historical-Critical' theology was a lie and that God's Word is truth.

In 1978 she literally threw her own highly rated books into the waste paper bin, resigned her professorship and went to the Far East as a Bible Institute teacher. She has recently written a book as a humble Christian and says she is very conscious that her previous teaching was sinful and that she was one of the 'blind leading the blind'. She is now eager to warn others away from the precipice of that error that she had fallen into herself. Her book appeared in 1990 under the title 'Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? Reflections of a Bultmannian turned Evangelical'.

This remarkable occurrence in the providence of God brings to our attention what is one of the most central lessons to be learned from the whole episode of the Higher Critical and Liberal movement from its inception to the present day. It is this, that the most brilliant minds cannot understand the Bible unaided by the Holy Spirit.

It was the sin and tragedy of the Higher Critics that they did not approach the Bible in the correct way. When men come to the Scriptures with some ready-made theory of their own, or when they suppose that they can pontificate on the meaning of Scripture without first bending their knee before God for his gracious teaching, they automatically disqualify themselves for that grace of illumination which is dispensable to the Bible student and to the Bible scholar. It is all too evident from the writings of Higher Critics that they did not excel in this virtue of self-abasement in the presence of Holy Scripture. For their arrogance they are chargeable with serious guilt

Final instalment in a few days but I would just add that in my observation of many Christians (including myself) that the awakening experience of Dr Linnemann is what they experience when they leave off what the world is telling them and, instead, trust the Word of God in every respect, including the straight-forward reading of Genesis 1.

Sam Drucker

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